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A LOOK AT HEBREW – OUR UNIQUE, HOLY LANGUAGE

By: Dudu Cohen



Before the Tower of Babel, everyone spoke the same language – Hebrew. The world was created when Gd spoke. The words He used in creating the world were said in Hebrew. The following interview with Rabbi Zamir Cohen gives us some insight about our holy language. Rabbi Cohen is the founder and chairman of Hidabrut. Hidabrut’s mission is create awareness among Jews about all aspects of Judaism. Rabbi Cohen is a popular speaker and author.

Language, especially Hebrew, is highly significant in Judaism. Itis only in Hebrew that we recite all our blessings, do all our praying, and study our Torah. The Ten Commandments contain a prohibition against speaking the name of Gd in vain, and reciting a blessing in vain is considered a grave sin. Even holy amulets are proof of the great importance of the Hebrew language, because what is an amulet if not a combination of letters that together create a new reality?

Hebrew is not a language like all other languages. First and foremost, Hebrew has a special power because the world was created with it.
It is a divine language as opposed to a man-made language.

Below is an interview that I conducted with Rabbi Zamir Cohen that helped clarify things. Rabbi Cohen is the author of The Code, which explains the secrets of the Hebrew letters.

Dudu: How did Hebrew come to have its power, and why does Judaism assume that Hebrew came before all other languages?

Rabbi Cohen:The Torah teaches that all mankind spoke one language until the infamous sin that occurred with the Tower of Babel. People took advantage of the lingual harmony between them to foment a rebellion, and so Gd intervened, and mixed up the one language that they all spoke.

Dudu: But how do we know that the language they spoke
was Hebrew?

Rabbi Cohen:Apart from our well-established Jewish tradition, and especially the teachings of Kabbalah, you can find a proof from the names of the people from the generations preceding the generation of the Tower of Babel: Adam was so named because he was created from the ground (adamahin Hebrew), Kayin’s name came from the phrase “I acquired (kiniti) a person with Gd.” Noah was given his name because he was destined to “bring us relief” (yinachemenu) from Gd’s decree that mankind would have to toil for a living, and so on. All these names are Hebrew words. The only one to retain his knowledge of Hebrew after the construction of the Tower of Babel was Eber, the son of Shelah,a descendant of Shem and Noah.
Eber was righteous and did not participate in the construction of the Tower of Babel. Eber is the one who passed our sacred language on to Abraham, who was one of Eber’s descendants. Abraham was the only one who preserved the original language.

Dudu:What other special significance does Hebrew have?

Rabbi Cohen:Kabbalists maintain that Hebrew letters contain concrete insights and spiritual powers which were implanted in them by Gd, who actually created the world with those letters. It can be compared somewhat to chemistry formulas – where combinations of different components create a certain reality, while here a combination of Hebrew letters and their powers created the reality expressed by a word. Sefer Yetzirah, The Book of Creation, attributed to our Patriarch Abraham, says, “He engraved, hewed, weighed, changed, and combined the twenty-two letters. He created from them the soul of every creation and the soul of all future creations. Thus, by making various combinations, Gd created the phenomena of creation – every phenomenon according to the combinations letters that constitute it.”

Dudu:What about other languages? Did they come from Hebrew, or are they completely separate?

Rabbi Cohen:Hebrew is the source and root of all languages in the world. When trying to find the semantic connections and similarities between parallel words in different languages, we discover amazing things. For example, samurai, unquestionably a Japanese word, is very much like the Hebrew shomrim, guards. Alternative is similar to alter nativ, find the path. Alteris from the Hebrew tur, to explore, to search. The word chatul, which means cat in English, is related to the Hebrew source. The root of the word brings us to old Latin, in which a cat was called catolus. English shortens the word to cat, and today the Hebrew root is no
longer recognizable.

You can find traces of Hebrew in other languages: cat is in French chat, in German katze, and so on. Other words that are similar are eretz– earth, lev(heart) – love, mareh– mirror, semel– symbol,
ayin– eye, atik– antique, peirot– fruit, qushiya– question, nafal– fall, irgun– organization, and ra’av(hunger) – ravished.

Rabbi Cohen: The order of the letters also corresponds to English. Another interesting point is that a number of words in the original Hebrew became mangled over the years, so their contemporary significance is drastically different from their original meaning.
For example, the word chashmal commonly refers to the power of electricity, but the original word was a spiritual concept from the world of Kabbalah.

Neshef is known today to be an evening dance party, but in the past, it was a synonym for “night.” Liftanis a compote dessert, its original meaning was the maindish eaten with bread. And there are even cases where the meaning was totally reversed, such as in the term asmachta(reference), which today means a reliable proof, while the original intention was a weak proof that shouldn’t be relied on at all.

The Revival of the Hebrew Language

The revival of Hebrew as a spoken language is nothing short of miraculous. When Eliezer Ben-Yehuda immigrated to Palestine in 1881, no Jews spoke Hebrew to one another. Hebrew was a language reserved forprayer and study. Hebrew had not been a spoken language since biblical times. Thanks to Ben-Yehuda’s perseverance, and of course with Gd’s help, by 1922 enough Jews were speaking Hebrew that the British Mandate authorities recognized Hebrew as the official language of the Jews in Palestine. The return of an ancient language to popular usage is unique. There are no other examples of this phenomenon with any other language. Today millions of Israelis’ first language is Hebrew, and it is heard spoken throughout the world.